Christmas is a wonderful time of year full of family and friends, long vacations, tasty food, joyous music, good cheer, and of course, presents. Beyond all these things that make Christmas so enjoyable, the real reason for the season is about a birthday. Christmas is the birthday celebration of Jesus Christ, God made flesh, born of a virgin.
But, was Jesus really born of a virgin?
The Biblical Account
That the divine Son of God was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit — no male involved — in the womb of a teenage girl who had never had sexual relations with a man, is clearly told in the biblical story of the annunciation of Jesus, found in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:26-38). The account goes:
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and of His kingdom there will be no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you."
The Gospel of Matthew adds more detail (Matthew 1:18-25):
After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Then Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.
The Prophetic Fulfillment
Jesus had to be born of a virgin in order to fulfill the many ancient messianic prophecies, such as:
- "And I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed…" (Genesis 3:15). A woman cannot supply the seed — the sperm — only a man can.
- "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel, meaning 'God with us'" (Isaiah 7:14). The Angel Gabriel would quote this verse using the Greek word parthenos to designate Mary not just as a maiden, but specifically as a young woman who never had sexual intercourse (Matthew 1:22-23).
- "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder…" (Isaiah 9:6). A miraculous birth would fulfill Isaiah's ancient prophecy.
- "Bethlehem, out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from everlasting" (Micah 5:2). Bethlehem is where the Messiah would be born, yet interestingly, He already had existed forever.
The evidence that Mary was a virgin can be found not only in her response to Gabriel when she asked, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" (Luke 1:34), but also in the way she behaved. In the First Century world, where becoming pregnant during the engagement period was considered an act of adultery and was thus subject to divorce or even stoning, Mary did not hide in guilt and shame. Instead, Mary travels to her elder cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias (Luke 1:39-45). As a priest, Zacharias would have been duty bound to report Mary for adultery. Instead, the couple welcomes her and Elizabeth exclaims, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Mary then proceeds to worship God with a magnificent song (Luke 1:46-55).
The virgin birth of Jesus Christ was attested to by many witnesses such as the Hebrew prophets, Dr. Luke, the Apostle Matthew, the Angel Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, Zacharias, Elizabeth, the unborn John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit, and the Early Church Fathers [Ignatius (110 AD), Aristides (125 AD), Justin Martyr (150 AD), Irenaeus (170 AD), Tatian (170 AD), Clement of Alexandria (190 AD), Tertullian (200 AD)]. Even Jesus Himself affirmed His virgin birth when He claimed to be the Messiah — God in the flesh (Mark 14:61-64; John 4:25-26).
Essential to Christianity
The virgin birth of Jesus Christ is absolutely essential to the Christian faith, for if Jesus was not born of a virgin, He could not have provided these seven foundational truths.
- Fulfilled Prophecy
Jesus could not fulfill the prophecies that defined the Messiah.
The Messiah could not be God. The identity of the Messiah was tied to being God incarnate (John 1:14).
Jesus could not claim the role of Kinsman-Redeemer. Jesus had to be a blood relative in order to be able to fulfill the family role of rescuer and become the "Second Adam" as the new head of the human race.
- Perfect Sacrifice
Jesus could not become the perfect sacrifice for mankind's sins. By having no earthly father, God kept Jesus from inheriting the sin nature so that He would be born pure and holy (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22-24; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26).
Jesus could not provide salvation. If Jesus was not God, then His sacrificial death for our sins would be meaningless, for no flawed man can appease our Creator's demand for perfect justice.
- Eternal Hope
Jesus could not become the source of mankind's eternal hope. He'd be just another sinful man incapable of providing the only means of making peace with the Father.
- Trust in the Bible
Mankind could not trust the Bible. If Jesus' origin was a lie, then nothing in the Bible can be trusted, meaning the whole book should just be thrown out.
The fact is, Jesus was born of a virgin. And, because He is God, mankind can be saved. We may have trouble understanding the "how's" of it all, but as the Angel Gabriel concluded, "With God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37).